If there was ever a time Codemasters was well suited for a role, it’s the development of the newest WRC racing simulation in town. With such dedication and intense commitment to the DiRT and DiRT Rally franchises, EA Sports had better give the studio a chance at an exclusive five-year license deal. Or, well, nothing we could do about it, really, if they hadn’t. Anyway, the tea is that Codemasters will be developing the next upcoming WRC games as part of a five-year deal commencing in 2023. Their first-ever entry that’ll give us a rough idea of how well prepared they are for a big role such as this presents itself in the 2023 EA Sports WRC video game recently released.
If anything, gamers are already familiar with the DiRT franchise. Particularly the latest DiRT 5 rally game, should have an easier time grappling with EA Sports WRC’s mechanics. Still, new changes make their way to the game, including transitioning from Codemasters' Ego game engine to Epic’s Unreal Engine 5 as well as leaving last-gen owners in the dust to properly handle Unreal Engine’s heavy-duty needs. The idea is a better authentic experience and awe-inspiring off-road racing. So, does EA Sports WRC deliver? Here’s our deep-dive EA Sports WRC review for your reading pleasure.
Get Dirty, Go Fast
One thing that’s clear above all else is that EA Sports WRC is a bigger entry than all its predecessors. You have more than 200 tracks at your disposal. Some are over 30km in length, around twice the length of even the longest stages in the “sort of” predecessor, DiRT. It’s much longer than any track ever chalked up in the franchise, and for the better, really. I mean, dirt rallies are better when you construe supreme focus over lengthy tracks. Plus, the chance to admire the game’s comprehensive car models is always welcome. More often than not, you’ll be kicking up dust in testy corners and on slick roads. Doors and bumpers will sling open, sometimes as part of the objectives of a quest: to be as destructive as possible.
You know the drill, as in any other simulated racing game. Pick a driver, touch up their styling here and there, and pick a car—often licensed imports from real-world race cars. Pick a stage, again lift-offs from the real world and sometimes fictional surreal ones, and head to the race track ready to show off your best swerves. Oh, yes, of course, listen to your co-captain, please, even though they sometimes are way out of their depth in EA Sports WRC. But before we get to the faults, there’s a lot of good to marvel at here. Take the car roster, for example. My God, you can expect to enjoy a comprehensive treasure trove of great selections, including the savage 1980s Group B cars.
Rubber Meets Mud: EA Sports WRC Review
Not one of the 78 rally machines is stuck behind a paywall. You have the current WRC cars, including the stunning hybrids, WRC2, and Junior WRC cars, albeit fewer. From a stretch of the '60s all the way to today's over-the-top Rally1 hybrids, you’ll no doubt find your special something tucked away here. The stages, too, are a whopping amount—variety, not so much. None of the stunts, circuits, or head-to-head racing make their way here. Rather, it’s a battle against you, the driver, and the most stern and unforgiving long-winded tracks. With 17 locations, each with 12 routes, you’ll find stunning immersion that awaits.
There are over 200 rally stages to contend with, each one wonderfully designed, varied, and fascinating to skid through. Evidently narrower, too, than DiRT, with racers skidding through gravel, snow, and asphalt at lightning-fast speeds. From the stunningly crafted gravel tracks of the favorite Oceania to the authentically narrow tracks of Rally Guanajuato, Mexico, each stage will surely cater to one need or another. Navigating your chosen beast machine down a thin, dirt road lined with tall, thick trees has never been less graceful. But even so, a few cons stick their tongue out, unapologetic.
A few quality-of-life spices from the previous entries get the boot here. Some, you may never notice when there, but when not, it’s hard to ignore. Take the bustling crowds cheering you on that make rallying past spectator stages immersive and surreal. Now, they’re sparsely placed and hardly give a care to how pro-racer you’re quickly becoming. Character models are hardly expressive, with the few minutes before kick-off evidently showing the cracks in the animations.
But leave alone the character models. You don’t see overhead drones and helicopters, which often adds chills to the spine. Neither do you pass by damaged cars hauled by the side of the road. Or sustain destructive car damage at the end. Or even mud, for that matter. While seemingly minor, these tiny little details make rallying feel alive, especially in WRC Generations.
You can get your hands dirty and build your own car in Builder mode. It’s a brand new feature where players can express themselves and be proud dads, watching their creations hurtle their way against other licensed rally cars. Still, it’s a basic craft that hardly incorporates expressive parts. Sure, you can slam a bumper here and am exhausted there to build a Rally1, Rally2, or Rally3 from scratch. But when the parts themselves barely appeal to the soul, the end result is going to be generic, at the very least. Whether mechanically or aesthetically, the Builder mode needs to head back to a garage of its own.
Buckle Up: EA Sports WRC Review
Bugs and glitches pop up a little too often, especially screen tearing and stuttering. In a rally championship game, every second matters, and such a thing as a frame rate drop can easily throw you off your game. Foliage can dash their way into your vehicle, or they may appear out of nowhere as you wind around a corner. Stepping back, the general stage aesthetic doesn’t appeal to the soul at all. Sure, they’re detailed with foliage and all forms of terrain. But they hardly jump off the screen. They hardly please.
Floatiness had been an issue before, and it still is, especially on asphalt. Cars don’t seem to grip the road, leaving the front pushing on and the rear coming around. Details like “heavy snowfall” can feel like white coat paint slapped onto dirt roads. There's some light snow dusting in a few corners, but its hardly convincing. As minor as it sounds, feeling the road under you plays a crucial role in your breaks and swerving your car around corners. However, I feel it’s a wheel issue, too, since no matter how I tweak the handling, I seem to jam my car into corners still and get a slap on the wrist as a result.
If It Ain’t Dirty, It Ain’t Racing
You may find other misgivings, but let’s get back to the good again. See, EA Sports WRC isn’t linear, meaning you can jump into any mode you prefer, and one of the most fully realized ones for a while now has been the career mode. You’re free to also jump into any level you like, including all the way down in junior mode, which actually fits perfectly with newcomers.
Here, you can brand and customize your machines before heading to please the mysterious “benefactor” that cuts the checks. You’ll be in charge of hiring and firing the staff, engineers, and racers, making sure they have a good night’s sleep to boost stamina, managing your team and budgets, and generally being in charge of your schedule. Thereafter, you can venture into the invitationals held every week.
Overall, it can be a bit dull, with the benefactor often on your case any chance he gets. Hearing about the bloody budget for the millionth time can burst a vein. Meanwhile, the AI is inconsistent, with moments where it falters and others where it’s too good to really have to crank up speed to beat. Either way, there’s a charm to blending team management and racing that adds a somewhat story-like mode to races. It gives purpose to return every once in a while, climbing the ranks to the top WRC level.
Mud, Sweat and Gears
Besides your career, you can set up your own championships in quick play. Or, reenact contemporary and historic rallies, for old-time's sake. In Rally School, you can brush up your skills to proficiency. You even have photo mode for photography enthusiasts to capture stunning images of rally history. With over 50 “Moments” to reenact and more coming soon in seasonal updates, you’re almost always kept busy tinkering with one or the other.
Verdict: EA Sports WRC Review
EA Sports WRC doubtlessly offers plenty of hidden treasure, particularly in expansiveness and variety. However, it does falter in quite high-stakes areas, specifically handling and overall polish. You may want to steer the way of the racing wheel, as the controller tends to throw you under the bus one too many times. Still, racing aficionados will likely look past the faults because, ultimately, EA Sports WRC does have huge potential to be the best and, at its core, provides a wealth of content to keep your eyes peeled for more.
EA Sports WRC Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Microsoft Windows)
Dirt Track Mania
While not perfect, EA Sports WRC offers expansive and compelling substance to wrap your head around. It provides over 200 tracks, some over 30km in length. Plus, 78 rally machines from the last 60 years. When its exquisite handling shines, it truly does, effectively, living up to the thrilling prospect of future officially licensed Codemasters rally games to come.